Prague Twin

Monday, June 04, 2007

China Leads America on Climate Change?

China has just announced that they plan to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. Bush had been prodding China to reduce its greenhouse gases and has given lip-service to doing the same at home, but no specific policy prescriptions are forthcoming.

Those who doubt mankind's role in global warming and/or feel that the U.S. should not take the lead in reducing emissions have made many arguments to support their case. One of these arguments has just been laid to rest. How many times have we heard that it is pointless for the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions if China will not do the same? It is absolutely absurd to think that the U.S. should be following China's lead on this or any other issue. As the worlds largest economy, the largest producer of greenhouse gases, and arguably the world's conscience, the U.S. has a clear obligation to take the lead on this issue, or abandon it outright. However, those who wanted China to act first on this issue have just got their wish.

Those who argue that global warming is not attributable to man's carbon emissions warn that taking action to restrict carbon emissions will devastate the economy. Again, this argument is well off base as it has been estimated that restricting carbon emissions as currently proposed will reduce world growth by approximately .1% per year. That is hardly what one would call devastating.

Furthermore, even if we assume that global warming is not caused by human beings, would restricting carbon emissions be such a bad idea anyway? Currently businesses are investing large sums of money on research and development of technologies that would reduce not only carbon emissions, but all emissions. We know that investment creates jobs, and this type of investment will create jobs and demand for professionals in the the engineering field. In this era of record corporate profits coupled with less than impressive business investment, throwing a bit of money at this problem could end up being a net gain for the economy. In fact, now that so much investment has been made in anticipation of new regulations on carbon emissions, if government restrictions do not follow, this investment will dry up rendering the earlier investment useless.

It seems clear that since coal is so abundant and easy to use, sooner or later it will all be burnt. It stands to reason, therefore, that the sooner we develop cleaner ways to burn coal, the less pollution will be created in the long term. Another thing we know about technology derived through research and development is that often new discoveries are found along the way which benefit all of mankind in unpredictable ways. We have no idea how many new, beneficial technologies will be unintentionally discovered along the way. Furthermore, one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions is to increase efficiency. So even if man is not responsible for global warming, our efforts to reduce emissions through more efficient technologies will benefit mankind through increased efficiency and the development of new technologies that will likely provide solutions to other problems.

It seems clear that even if human beings are not responsible for global warming, we all stand to benefit from business investment in emission reduction, both in known and unknown ways.

Does it make more sense for the U.S. or China to take the lead in this endeavor?

18 Comments:

  • PT,

    I'm not on-board with the whole humans-are-causing-global-warming for a variety of reasons I'm not going to get into at the moment.

    However, you also said this: "Furthermore, even if we assume that global warming is not caused by human beings, would restricting carbon emissions be such a bad idea anyway?"

    You gave very sound business reasons for these investments. A valid reason in and of itself. However, for me the issue is whether or not such emissions affect global warming (and the only way I see to actually prove that is to reduce them and see what happens), these emissions are also tied to other forms of pollution. All these emissions cause air pollutants that do affect our health, especially in the big cities. The evidence on this is less debatable. It's solid and doesn't not defy the scope of our research methods.

    If we cut emissions, we'll be improve our impact on the environment and saving our own lungs. To me, that's reason enough.

    Making the change... That's a more difficult problem. While I can use all the energy efficient light bulbs I want (though there is an inherent risk to that; mercury + kids + breakage = expensive badness), I still have the van and there's no hybrid-alternative (to my knowledge) yet, and if there was it would be beyond my current resources. The oil furnace can only be replaced with gas, which is not significantly better.

    While I'm loath to suggest regulation as a first-resort, perhaps requiring more/all new buildings to be environmentally-friendly wouldn't be such a bad move -- and it would be a good start on lowering emissions.

    p.s. See if you can see the purple site, different location.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 5:39 PM  

  • Global Warming is the ultimate "better safe than sorry" scenario. The US has taken a "we can, but you can't" approach to it.

    By Blogger Graeme, at 5:52 PM  

  • If we cut emissions, we'll be improve our impact on the environment and saving our own lungs. To me, that's reason enough.

    In a way, that is all I was trying to say. Wouldn't it be worth .1% of global growth just because instinctively cutting emissions is the right thing to do?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:47 PM  

  • Graeme,

    Exactly, better safe than sorry. It is worth the effort either way.

    It seems like the world is taking a "we will, will you?" approach.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:48 PM  

  • I don't know why we haven't. To me, it just doesn't make sense.

    Whoever first discovers and successfully markets the cheap, renewable, clean and practical energy source we all want will have an economic advantage, as well as other advantages. The US is in a great position to be that someone, either through government grants or business activities. Why more aren't pressing the advantages we already have to achieve this is something I don't understand.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 12:59 AM  

  • Australia still have hundreds of ships parked off the east coast waiting to load with coal for China. In fact the Chinese operate a number of the coal mines here.
    With that trade I don't see any reduction soon.
    On the other hand Australia's 20 million people produce more emissions than China's 200 million

    By Blogger Cartledge, at 2:20 AM  

  • Don't trust the Chinese.

    By Anonymous Norrin Radd, at 5:26 AM  

  • Remember pollution? We need to continue fighting that battle and emphasize keeping the world--its air, its oceans, lakes, and rivers, and its soil healthy. I am much more concerned about that than global warming which seems to be a catch-all phrase for a number of initiatives.

    By Blogger Publia, at 6:08 AM  

  • I find the we caused global warming/climate change real hard to except. I do feel that we should be trying to stay ahead of China in all ways. I agree with Norrin Radd, "Don't trust the Chinese."

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic

    By Blogger David Schantz, at 10:29 AM  

  • Cartledge,

    I agree. The coal is going to get burnt. The sooner we find cleaner ways of burning it, the better.

    Publia,

    I agree, it is the issue of pollution that should be paramount. Unfortunately in this world populated by sheep, you need catastrophic prophesies to motivate people (i.e. global warming).

    Norin Radd & David,

    Indeed, don't trust the Chinese. Maybe they are the REAL reason for the missile defense system.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:49 PM  

  • PT,

    "Unfortunately in this world populated by sheep, you need catastrophic prophesies to motivate people"

    Sheep not withstanding, the issue of pollution was making headway before people clamored onto the global warming train. Doomsday for the whole earth trumped breathable air, drinkable water and edible food in far too many minds. After all, human beings are rather immured within the whole "slow death" scenario; we can't escape it so we don't really dwell on it.

    However, more and more links are being found between pollution and chronic health problems as well as escalating disability ratios in our children. This is something that should open people's eyes.

    While I personally think that the reason I have three children with autism is because mine and Mark's genetics are strongly predisposed to autism; there are others with reasonable guestimates that would say the reason I have three children with autism is because I was exposed to unheathly, high concentration of mercury by living where I lived and eating what I ate, and that the other health problems prevented my body from coping with and protecting my fetuses from those concentrations.

    If this is the truth, if poisons are effecting our children to such a drastic extent all across the nation, then it is in our nation's best financial interest to fix the problem. My children are damned expensive, and the federal and state governments are the ones who foot most of the bills. And those bills aren't going to go away any time soon. Medical and scholastic bills will continue to be paid for by the government(s) long after my family becomes economically self-sufficient.

    There are also significant moral, ethical, and custodial reasons to improve our impact on the environment. Both for our fellow human beings, present and future, and for the other life-forms with which we share our planet.

    It's true that the sheep are never going to be as concerned with and as motivated by these issues as those who devote themselves to self-education, critical thinking, and personal reflection. However, the "sheeple" were being reached when the focus was on pollution.

    Global-warming makes better head-lines. Global-warming is a matter that is more debatable, because "the facts" that are in are not as sound as the sound-bytes make them out to be. Global-warming is controversial, and thus it sells. While the sheep always make nice targets, I'm leaning very strongly towards placing the blame on those businesses, institutions and organizations that make it their "life's" work to lead the sheep by the nose.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 5:36 AM  

  • ...the issue of pollution was making headway before people clamored onto the global warming train.

    I'm sorry, but I just think you are plain wrong on this one. Since Bush has been in office we have seen the Clean Air Act and Clear Water Act nearly gutted. The EPA is headed by a corporate spokesperson who made a living fighting the EPA for corporations. Sure, progress WAS being made from the 60s on, but profit has trumped those efforts and in the last decade we have seen a rolling back.

    I spent a lot of time in college on environmental campaigns, and let me tell you it is very hard to get people motivated. I have seen first hand how hard it is to make people sit up and listen. As much as it makes me wince and hold my nose that global warming is the reason for emission standards, I see it as a necessary evil.

    Regardless of what we should do, or what is in the taxpayers best long term interests, business interests trump all else. Until the government forces the businesses to take action, they will not.

    It is only through sustained public outcry that regulations are brought about.

    If you have to lead a few sheep by the nose to get there.... so be it.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:56 AM  

  • PT,

    I have never actively engaged in environmental campaigns, and I don't intend to start. However, businesses aside, I have been watching what people do and the people's behavior when I was a child to now has changed. People are more conscientious of their pollution habits.

    Businesses may have a bigger impact, but there are businesses who have chosen to make it a positive impact. Still, far too many of them need that forceful push.

    As for the 1960s, as far as I can tell that would be right around when "global warming" was picking up momentum in the public eye as more "scientists" were buying into it. Since then, the global warming campaign has grown and swamped the environmental campaign pretty thoroughly. Bad science with "catchy" headlines sells better than good science that involves realistically slow deterioration.

    And the leaders of the world follow the "scientists" into the dark.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 9:44 AM  

  • People are more conscientious of their pollution habits.

    Yeah, because of global warming. But in any case it isn't the people we need to worry about as the means of production of our energy which is controlled by companies.

    Global warming is much newer than the 60s. It has really only been getting real traction in the last decade.

    Scientists leading us into the dark? I have no idea what you are talking about.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:24 AM  

  • Global Warming "started" in 1949.
    (scroll to 1949-1950)

    Global Warming is speculative science, akin to speculative fiction.
    Thus, scientists are leading us into the dark, because they're practicing politics instead of science.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 3:34 AM  

  • Excuse me, politics and marketing.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 3:35 AM  

  • Stephanie,

    You said that global warming was picking up momentum in the public eye in the sixties. From your article:

    1984-1990
    Theories about global warming and the greenhouse effect become more prevalent, gaining attention from mass media. However, many people believe the threat is not eminent and some doubt that global climate change is a danger.

    Thats all I'm saying.

    And although some scientists are playing politics with it, I would say the vast majority are not and are trying to lead us into the light.

    But that is just my opinion.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:43 PM  

  • PT,

    "You said that global warming was picking up momentum in the public eye in the sixties."

    What I said was: "As for the 1960s, as far as I can tell that would be right around when "global warming" was picking up momentum in the public eye as more "scientists" were buying into it." (emphasis added)

    We're talking about a time-period before I was born. I got that bit of misinformation from previous article I read a few years ago. It was a five-year-old article that claimed that scientists had "proved" global-warming in the fifties.

    During our discussion I got curious, so I looked for a time-line/history and found one. Which discredited the hype-article I had read before. Big surprise there. You want me to admit my guestimate was off, fine it was.

    "Many people believe the threat is not eminent and some doubt that global climate change is a danger."

    I don't believe the threat is eminent and doubt that it is a danger on the scale oft discussed. The earth has been through global warming before. People are still here. Heck, that's how the Vikings got to places like Greenland and the American continent. Now, I'm not saying that was necessarily a good thing, considering how brutual they could be, but the point is that humanity survived global warming in the past. The main thing against us now is that the human population is significantly bigger and we're not united enough to do what's necessarily to protect those in vulnerable areas -- as Katrina and the various world disasters have proven. As for the ice caps melting completely away and flooding the majority of the land masses -- I don't buy it.

    "...I would say the vast majority are not..."

    I would agree with you on that. But that vast majority of scientists are not making it into the news and are completely below the radar of the sheep you want to lead. They also rarely write papers that are readily understandable by non-scientists (and sometimes one has to be a scientist within their field to understand them); and they are smeared by the scientists that do get into the news whenever they publish anything that doesn't agree with the desired hype. Sometimes they can even prevent such papers from being published at all.

    "...and are trying to lead us into the light."

    That I don't agree with, because those who devote themselves to good science may be pioneers in their respective fields, but they do not lead the masses -- to the light or otherwise.

    By Anonymous Stephanie, at 3:39 AM  

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